statistics are especially relevant to people with spinal cord
dysfunction, who are often prone to overmedication, life-threatening
infections, and more hospitalization. Clearly, such statistics warrant a
serious consideration of alternative therapies, such as those summarized
in this article.
many of these therapies are not supported by rigorously designed
scientific studies, one must note that the Congressional Office of
Technology Assessment has concluded that only 10-20% of medical
interventions physicians practice are scientifically proven. Most
conventional, as well as alternative, medicine is based on a history of
use and experience. The results of modern science’s carefully designed
clinical trials are only a small fraction of our healthcare reality.
topics summarized below are discussed more thoroughly in the articles
posted elsewhere on this web site.
MEDICINE BASED THERAPIES:
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that
a life-force energy called qi permeates all living things through
channels called meridians. Good health requires an ample and flowing
supply of qi. When qi is consistently diminished, out of balance, or
polluted, sickness ensues; its absence means death.
has considerable potential for treating health problems, such as chronic
pain, commonly affecting individuals with paralysis, and may restore
some function. Under traditional theory, traumatic paraplegia is the
consequence of damages in the important Du or Governor meridian. These
damages, in turn, affect the yang qi energy of the entire body.
Acupuncture’s goal is to clear and activate meridian channels,
reversing qi stagnation.
conjunction with a National Institutes of Health Consensus Development
Conference, Margaret Naeser, Ph.D., Lic.Ac., Boston University School of
Medicine, summarized studies treating CNS paralysis with acupuncture.
One study reported that 95% of treated individuals with SCI had some
improvement, such as improved sensation, bowel and bladder function,
spasms, and walking. Ideally, patients should be treated as soon as
possible after injury. For MS, studies suggest that acupuncture can
improve muscle spasms, vision, sleep, sexual functioning, and bladder
With physical disability, qi can
stagnate and become unbalanced, increasing the likelihood of illness.
Hence, it is important to stimulate qi flow through various methods such
as qigong, a healing exercise that encompasses gentle movement,
breathing, and meditative practices. With slight adjustments, it is
possible to practice most of these practices from standing, seated or,
even lying down positions, and, with or without arm movement. As such,
qigong is an ideal activity for those with spinal cord dysfunction.
with spinal cord dysfunction have accrued significant benefit from
qigong-related practices. For example, Roberta Trieschmann, Ph.D., past
Vice President, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, uses
qigong-related practices to improve the overall health and functioning
of people with physical disabilities. For example, through these
practices, an incomplete quadriplegic was able reduce his devastating
central cord pain; and a woman legally blind due to MS was able to
improve her sight enough to drive and read.
of these individuals were massively depressed by their circumstances and
had lost all hope that life could be better for them,” Treischmann
states. “Yet by understanding the role of energy in their life and
changing the methods of managing their energy, they have been able to
produce change in their function at the physical level even though a
myriad of physicians could offer no hope for any improvement in their
acupuncture is a specialized form of acupuncture that has helped many
people with nervous-system disorders, including SCI and MS. A leading
force behind the therapy is Professor Ming Qing Zhu, who operates
clinics in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Procedurally, very fine
needles are inserted into the thin layer of scalp tissue in treatment
zones associated with specific body functions and regions. To stimulate
qi flow, the needles are periodically manipulated and often left in for
Patients, including those with
paralysis, are encouraged to move the affected body parts, using as
necessary assistive devices or the help of others, or, at minimum, to
visualize the movement accompanied with qigong-based breathing practices
that help direct the qi flow to the intended area. This movement is
critical in improving connections between the central and peripheral
Scalp acupuncture almost invariably
reduces MS symptom severity. Because so many people have been treated, a
specific MS protocol has been developed for use by other acupuncturists.
In the case of SCI, although treatment is usually initiated long after
the acute injury phase, the most optimal therapeutic window, most
patients have accrued significant quality-of-life-enhancing health
This therapy was
developed by Albert Bohbot, who operates a clinic located about 120
miles south of Paris (Chateau Gaillard, Montlinard). With this therapy,
an infrared laser beam is directed toward various acupuncture points
located on the patient’s torso. These sessions are augmented with more
traditional physical rehabilitation therapy designed to enhanced
combines elements of both acupuncture and laser therapy, each of which
have shown potential for restoring function after SCI. Bohbot
has refined the methodology, provided some unique technical
contributions, and developed paradigm-expanding explanations for how it
works. Central to the
therapy is an acupunctural network that relate energy meridians to
dermatome levels, which match specific spinal cord levels with given
areas of skin feeling. He
believes that stimulating energy flow through this network can restore
some function. In some cases, dramatic improvement has been observed.
ACUPUNCTURE HAND THERAPY: Studies
indicate 30 – 73% of manual wheelchair users will experience carpel
tunnel syndrome (CTS). Margaret
Naeser, Ph.D., Lic.Ac. has developed an effective alternative therapy
for not only CTS but the spasticity-related hand-flexion problems often
associated with CNS disorders. This therapy specifically stimulates hand
acupuncture points with a low-energy laser beam and a mild electrical
current, and can be readily performed at home with some upfront guidance
by a licensed acupuncturist. It uses 1) a red-beam-emitting laser
pointer powered by two AAA batteries
and 2) microamps transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
(specifically, a MicroStim 100 TENS device).
designed clinical studies indicate that approximately 90% of treated
individuals with mild-moderate CTS will have significant, enduring
relief from CTS pain. In the case of spasticity-related hand-flexion
difficulties, such as the fisted or clawed hand, the hand relaxes, the
fingers open up more, and existing dexterity improves.
ancient holistic medicine Ayurveda attempts to keep one healthy and disease free. Ayurveda’s
focus is wellness and the prevention of disease, including the chronic
health problems that frequently afflict individuals with spinal cord
results in considerable physiological and metabolic shifts.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, these shifts increase the
divergence between your current mix of vata-pitta-and-kapha doshic
energies (i.e., vikruti) and your born-with doshic-energy ideal (i.e.,
prakruti). If this imbalance is not corrected, toxins (called ama) will
accumulate, clogging the body’s channels and, in turn, causing
disease. Hence, those with paralysis need to be especially vigilant in
their efforts to regain a good doshic balance through food consumption
and life-style behaviors.
spices are recommended for clearing channels of ama after any sort of
injury. including turmeric, black pepper, ginger, coriander, fennel, and
licorice. Maharishi Ayur-Ved Products (Colorado Springs, CO) markets a
multi-herbal product called “ReGen – Nerve,” which contains the
neuronal-health-promoting herb Mimosa pudica (i.e., the sensitive or
touch-me-not plant). In rats with sciatic nerve injury (a nerve running
through the pelvis and upper leg), regeneration was 30-40% higher in the
animals treated with the Mimosa pudica extract.
results of a self-report, pilot study carried out by the author suggest
that the ReGen – Nerve product exerts a variety of subtle effects in
subjects with spinal cord dysfunction (e.g., reduced spasticity).
by John Upledger, D.O., (Upledger Institute, Palm Beach Gardens, FL), craniosacral
therapy is a gentle hands-on procedure for evaluating and
enhancing the functioning of the craniosacral system. Because the system
surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it affects the entire body and, as
such, the therapy has the ability to treat a wide-range of disorders,
including SCI. Therapists use a light touch to feel the rhythmic motion
of the cerebrospinal fluid within the craniosacral system and, in turn,
to treat any restrictions. Because a restriction in one area can affect
the entire system, treatment may involve working at a point distant from
the overt symptoms.
treated patients with SCI report improvements, ranging from modest to
fairly dramatic, involving motor function, bowel and bladder control,
spasticity management, and overall well-being and ease.
CONTROLLED DEVELOPMENTAL THERAPY (CCDT): Developed by Ed Snapp, a physical
therapist who acquired polio in his youth, CCDT targets various
neurological disorders, including post polio syndrome, SCI, head injury,
cerebral palsy and developmental disorders. It consists of a
number of fairly standard physical therapies performed in a defined
sequence, including pressure stimulation, hydrotherapy, light-touch
massage, movements on an oil table, and rest in a sling apparatus that
mimics a fetal position. The
therapies are done to the patient, who exerts no effort, and carried out
in a distraction-free environment.
CCDT theory, turning on dormant neurons requires a sequence of cues that
mimic events from our early fetal and infant development, which, in
turn, reflect a genetic memory of our evolutionary development. If a fully developed neuron has been turned off, its
reactivation requires that it receive and sense external cues in a
defined sequence that are correlated to the neuron’s initial
development. There is no avenue to deliver these cues except through the
peripheral senses. Out-of-sequence cues will not work.
& NUTRITIONAL APPROACHES:
helping to maintain health, to treat disability-aggravated ailments, and
to reduce exposure to drug side effects, people with spinal cord
dysfunction can benefit greatly from herbal medicine. Furthermore, the
use of infection-fighting herbal remedies that enhance the body’s
inherent healing potential will help preserve the future effectiveness
of life-saving antibiotics, a cornerstone of their healthcare.
herbs specifically support and nourish the nervous system. For example,
ginkgo biloba may potentially help people with MS and, as discussed
above, Mimosa pudica possesses nerve regenerative potential.
addition, Feather Jones, Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies
(Boulder, CO) director has suggested that several other nerve-nourishing
herbs may potentially help in spinal cord dysfunction (personal
communication). For example, she has indicated that a fresh plant
extract of skullcap (a member of the mint family) reduces nerve
inflammation; a tincture of milky oats (i.e., immature oat seeds) can
rebuild the neuronal myelin sheath that is often damaged in both MS and
SCI; an external liniment of Cow Parsnip, (a common weed that is a
member of the parsley family) is a traditional Southwestern Hispanic
remedy for treating injured nerves and stimulating regeneration;
external application of St. John’s Wort can treat neural inflammation;
and hawthorn helps to hold collagen fibers in place along the spinal
There are many nutritional approaches that can
enhance the wellness of individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. For
example, consuming cranberry (also blueberry) products are a traditional
folk remedy for fighting urinary
tract infections (UTI’s), a serious recurring health problem for
individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. In addition to acidifying
urine, cranberries contain substances that inhibit bacteria from
attaching to the bladder lining and, as such, promote the flushing out
of bacteria with the urine stream, including in individuals with spinal
cord dysfunction. Studies suggest that D-mannose, a naturally occurring
sugar, (marketed as MannoplexTM by Progressive Laboratories,
Irving, TX ) is even 10 times more effective than cranberries in
dislodging E. coli bacteria, the primary UTI culprit, from the bladder
wall, and can ameliorate over 90% of UTI’s in 24-48 hours.
another example, a recent double-blind, crossover study demonstrated
that creatine supplementation, a popular
mechanism for building muscle mass and strength, increased the exercise
and respiratory capability in individuals with complete cervical level
spinal cord injuries.
OILS & AROMATHERAPY: Aromatherapy or essential oil therapy is a
natural, gentle treatment that often can be used as an alternative to
the many conventional pharmaceutical medications that people with spinal
cord dysfunction frequently rely upon. In addition to enhancing overall
wellness, it has the potential to alleviate specific
paralysis-associated health problems.
For example, Aromatic Thymes magazine published a case study in which
aromatherapy was used to enhance the health of a quadriplegic in the
acute injury phase. Specifically, essential oils were used to prevent
respiratory infections, promote mucus clearing, fight depression, and
Flower essences are sun-infused solutions that
possess the flowers’ subtle vibrational energy imprint. Like other
natural alternatives, they expand the healing armamentarium available to
people with spinal cord dysfunction.
little focus has been placed on the therapy’s healing potential
relevant to spinal cord dysfunction, Machelle Small Wright, Perelandra
flower essence creator, believes that essences have tremendous potential
for treating spinal cord injury. Because
a traumatic injury profoundly disturbs the body’s energetic patterns,
flower essences, which stabilize these patterns, has healing potential. In an educational video, she notes “I would love to get
essences in on spinal cord injuries.” “This is the thing I think
that would take spinal cord injury right over the top because now
you’ve got an electrical pattern that’s going to be addressing the
very base of your electrical operation; the nerve center. And I think
when you’re talking about regeneration and you put that electrical
system on, it will regenerate.”
an audio resource, Wright establishes a flower-essence regimen for a
woman with MS. As the woman
continued her regimen over time, her MS symptoms gradually and
resources also allude to essences that have relevance to spinal cord
dysfunction. Although flower essences’ molecule-independent, energy
mechanisms are troublesome for mainstream scientists, Jeffrey Cram,
Ph.D., Sierra Health Institute, has shown in controlled studies that
popular combination flower-essence remedies can, indeed, exert
measurable physiological effects.
is another alternative that can help individuals with spinal cord
dysfunction enhance their overall wellness, reduce their heavy
medication burden, and preserve life-saving antibiotic effectiveness.
Basically, with homeopathy, substances that cause symptoms of illness in
a healthy person can be used in exceedingly low doses to cure similar
symptoms when they result from illness.
obtain the most effective remedies for spinal-cord-injury-related
disorders, one should see a professional homeopath. However, if this is
not feasible, according to Dana Ullman, M.P.H., Homeopathic Educational
Services (Berkeley, CA), one may benefit from occasionally taking
several doses of Hypericum (30X or 30C). Prepared from St. John’s wort,
Hypericum can potentially help nerve-related injuries, including acute
and chronic SCI or conditions aggravated as a result of SCI. Other
homeopathic remedies that may help for SCI include Arnica, Cocculus,
Natrum sulph, Aurum metallium, Heleborus, Aconitum, and a combination
remedy called Traumeel. Ideally, homeopaths believe that emergency
medical technicians should administer homeopathic medicines at the
accident scene to minimize injury.
little formal research has been carried out on SCI, Dr. Edward Chapman,
Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, has demonstrated that
homeopathy significantly lessens the symptoms and improves the
functioning of individuals with mild chronic head injury, suggesting
that the therapy could also help for SCI.
aggravates many ailments amenable to magnetic therapy. For example,
studies have shown that the therapy is effective in controlling pain,
enhancing circulation, promoting wound healing, and reducing carpal
double-blind clinical study has shown that small, low-intensity magnets
can greatly reduce the pain associated with over-use injuries or joint
and muscle inactivity in individuals with post-polio syndrome. Studies
suggest that magnetic fields can also MS symptoms. For example, pulsed
electromagnetic fields can ease pain and spasticity and improve bladder
control, cognitive function, fatigue level, mobility and vision in
people with MS.
function has been reported in individuals with SCI using ferrite-ring
magnets of various sizes. Animal studies indicate that pulsed
electromagnetic fields stimulate both peripheral and spinal cord
neuronal regeneration, as well as functional recovery. Magnetic fields
can potentially influence 1) calcium influx through the neuronal cell
membrane, which affects essential cellular functions; and 2) levels of
key nerve growth factors, which affect regeneration, 3) stem cell
differentiation, and the physical matrix of the tissue scar that forms
after SCI in a way that is less inhibitory to neuronal re-growth.
to Sherrie Pae, Barbara Brennan School of Healing, spinal cord injury
affects energy flow through the body because of the cord’s proximity
to the body’s power column or pranic tube, and the energy received by
the base and sacral chakras is substantially reduced.
effects of the injury are stored in the etheric field, which is closest
to the body. This field contains the template or blueprint for the
physical body, duplicating every cell and organ. As such, the etheric
field is responsible for the growth, development, and repair of the
physical body. If the etheric template is distorted, its physical
product, the body, will also be distorted in some sense. If energy
workers can mend the etheric field’s dysfunctional energy vectors
after injury, physiological healing will be facilitated.
most famous medical intuitive provided thousands of readings on diverse
health disorders, including MS and SCI.
Most have been transcribed and are available to the public
through the Association of Research and Enlightenment (Virginia Beach,
believed MS’s main cause was the lack of gold. As such, his primary
therapy for the disorder involved administering gold vibrational energy
through two electrotherapy devices, the wet cell battery and radial
appliance. With these devices, the energy flow was routed through a jar
containing a gold chloride solution, where gold’s vibrational energy
was picked up and then directed to the body. The Meridian Institute
(Virginia Beach, VA) has carried out a small pilot study suggesting that
Cayce’s healing protocol improves health and reduces MS symptoms.
provided readings for relatively few people with SCI, basically because
most people with serious injuries often did not live very long in his
lifetime. His SCI recommendations also emphasized the use of gold
are many alternative, complementary, energy-based healing modalities
that can help individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. Not only do they
have the capability to help a variety of secondary conditions associated
with such a disability, they have the ability in some people, for
certain injuries or level of dysfunction, to restore function, sometimes